29.12.10

Slow Roast Data

It’s stuck me that there seems to be a range of vocabulary which seem to apply inter changeably to both cooking and data environments.

Perhaps the most longstanding one is “slice and dice” which for data refers the process of taking a data set and selecting and analysing sections in smaller parts. Even Microsoft uses this language to describe pivot tables in Excel.

There are some real parallels. The data are the ingredients for analysis. The software are the tools and utensils. It’s then the skills or experience of the chef (analyst) which combines the ingredients in the right proportion, in the right way at the right time, and then presents these delightfully. Perhaps we should think of the analyst as the data chef.

There are also some really close parallels in the cooking and analytical processes. In the kitchen there’s the preparation time, cooking time and then the plating up. In the data world there’s definitely the preparation time, make sure the data is sufficiently usable, that the ingredients are fit and appropriate to use. Then there’s the analysis, which is the cooking equivalent (but not quite cooking the books). Then finally there the stage of plating up, which is the all about presenting the final product.

Interesting how the analogy might get extended further. I quite like the idea of slow roasting some data, let that long low heat tease out the subtle nuances that emerge when given enough time, and would otherwise be entirely lost.

In the data world we are increasingly combining or linking different data sets together. We already have “mash up”. So he we evolve more refined approaches. How about blending – a gentle combining, through to whisking – purposefully filling with air.